Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, March 30, 2008

Second Sunday of Easter

Year A

March 30, 2008

Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Psalm 16

I Peter 1:3-9 St. John 20:19-31

Have you ever faced any doubts in your spiritual life or Christian walk? Well you are not alone in that by any stretch of the imagination. Today I would like to talk about two doubters in particular, so see what lessons we might learn from them for our own lives.

First of course is our doubter from the Gospel passage today. By his quickly spoken words, the disciple Thomas has had to live with the title of Thomas the Doubter or Doubting Thomas for centuries. I generally try to defend Thomas in this respect, because he was actually only asking for what the Gospel account today tells us the other apostles already received. The account tells us that Jesus showed the other disciples his hands and his side when Jesus first appeared to them and that is what Thomas was asking for as well, so I think sometimes that the judgment of history is rather harsh. But Thomas is the one who actually had to ask and express his doubts for all the world to see.

The other doubter is a bit more contemporary. Many of you might remember last year when much of the private correspondence of Mother Teresa was released. In it we discovered that she faced a lot of doubts for many years. Some people seemed to be scandalized. That such a towering person of faith could have struggled so long with doubts so serious is unthinkable. But Mother Teresa was not alone in her doubts.

Mother Teresa was experiencing, as St. John of the Cross described it in his life, her “dark night of the soul.” In one of her letters she expressed it like this: “I am told that God lives in me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

Many people, some famous in history and others just common and unknown, like you and I, experience moments of doubt or our own personal dark night of the soul. These moments of doubt do not make us any less a Christian, they only reveal that we are human.

Unlike Mother Teresa and Thomas most of us have the luxury of living out our doubts in a much less public way. And even so, I fear that some make a choice to struggle with their doubts privately for fear of what others or the church might say or think. These fears can be well founded. Some churches fear doubters.

But doubt is not the end of the world. God can and does respond to our doubts in many ways. God responded to the doubts of Thomas and he was able to see Jesus and that resulted in the cry of Thomas “My Lord and my God!”

God responded to the doubts of Mother Teresa through the face of lepers, children, and others in need. And in spite of her doubts and difficulties Mother Teresa remained faithful to the call of God in her life. She did not allow her doubts to destroy her or the work God had called her to do.

Just as God responded to the two doubters today, God will also respond to our doubts and fears as well. God may respond differently to each of us just as we have seen God respond differently to Thomas and Teresa. The Scriptures promise us that God will never leave us and that includes our times of doubt.

The exciting thing about studying doubters is the realization that God does not give up on them and will not give up on us. While God will respond differently, God does respond. Perhaps like Thomas we will face a fairly quick response to our questions and concerns or perhaps like Teresa God will call us to struggle and live with our doubts. But the truth is God never gives up on us. We should never feel no matter how grave or weighty our doubts that God has abandoned or given up on us.

Our doubts are the opportunities for growth and greater spiritual maturity in our life in Christ. Let us not fear them in ourselves or in others.

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